BEALOR: What access do parents have to children’s records?
Absent a court order to the contrary or other applicable law, parents in Michigan are granted equal access to their children’s records or information including medical, dental, and school records, day care provider’s records, and notification of meetings regarding their children’s education. This equal access is granted to both custodial and non-custodial parents under Michigan Compiled Law 722.30.
Usually, schools and other providers can charge parents a reasonable copying fee to provide records. Parents should ask about any fee waiver policy if parents cannot afford to pay for the costs of copies. If a parent plans to request records, plan for there to be a delay from the time a request is made until the records are produced and/or copied.
FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also provide legal rights and obligations regarding access to and privacy of children’s educational information related to attendance at a public school, including information about any individualized educational plan created for a child as a result of a child’s disability.
FERPA’s and IDEA’s safeguards include protection and use of a child’s personally identifiable information, who may have access to a child’s records, and parents’ rights to inspect their child’s education records and request amendment to correct information that is misleading or inaccurate, or that violates a child’s privacy or other rights. Typically, FERPA and IDEA protections do not apply to private schools as FERPA and IDEA are tied to a school’s receipt of federal funding.
FERPA and IDEA also allow parents to designate others to receive information about their children’s school records. The Family Compliance Office, the division of the U.S. Department of Education which provides guidance regarding FERPA, has indicated that when one parent is absent and uninvolved in their children’s lives and a step-parent is in the home with the children and involved with a parent in the day to day care of their step-children, that step-parent has FERPA rights as a “parent.”
A parent’s rights to information about their child’s records changes when a child turns 18 years old. At age 18, a child is legally considered an adult. Information and records for a child who is 18 years of age or older can only be released to a parent if a release is signed by that child authorizing the parent to have access to their records.
Parents have an obligation to independently seek and obtain information from schools, medical providers and others to stay attuned with their children. The Cass County Friend of the Court encourages all parents to work together and freely share important information about their children. If parents are remarried or have significant others and those stepparents or significant others are involved in the day to day care of the children, the Cass County Friend of the Court suggests that information d be shared with them as well.
The adults in children’s lives need to be on the same page in order to effectively make decisions in the children’s best interests. Children thrive when the adults in their lives work together and collaborate putting the children’s needs first. While collaboration may be difficult at first, parents report that working together gets easier with the passage of time.
The FOC has no authority to enforce a parent’s rights to access children’s records with schools, health care providers, or others who refuse to provide the records. Schools and doctor’s offices are generally aware of these laws and are cooperative with parents.
However, if you have difficulty gaining access to records, you can contact your FOC for assistance in verifying you are not prohibited by court order from access to specific records. If you continue to have difficulty accessing your children’s records and you are not denied access to such records, by a court order, you may want to speak to an attorney about your legal options.
Carol Bealor is the director at the Cass County Friend of the Court. If you have questions about the FOC that you think would be helpful to address in future columns, please send them to the FOC email address: email@example.com.